Art History Major to Curatorial Assistant: Emma Laube ’17
As a curatorial assistant, Emma Laube ’17 is exploring the rich history and abundance of resources in the Allen Memorial Art Museum.
Curatorial Assistant for Academic Programs at the Allen Memorial Art Museum (AMAM) Emma Laube ’17 is taking advantage of the wealth of resources at the AMAM in her first postbaccalaureate position. Using her extensive knowledge of the museum’s holdings that she garnered as a student, Laube is working under the supervision of Curator of Academic Programs Liliana Milkova to develop class visits, curricular workshops, and professional development events for faculty at the AMAM.
Each day on the job, Laube is reminded of the comprehensiveness of the Allen’s collection that first captivated her during two winter term projects at the museum. As a junior, Laube asked her art history advisor whether she could read the journals of renowned sculptor Eva Hesse for a winter term project. Her advisor soon put her in touch with Milkova, who introduced her to the Eva Hesse Archives, which scholars from around the country come to consult.
“The Allen is an absolute treasure trove. I spent a winter term at the Allen just reading Hesse’s diaries a couple times a week. I didn’t even need to convince anyone that it was a worthwhile project. They just said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, we can arrange it. We’ll see you Tuesday.’ It’s things like that really remind me how lucky we are.”
As an art history major, Laube was constantly in and out of the Allen while she was a student. Soon after completing Practicum in Museum Education, which is offered at the AMAM every winter term, she landed her first job at the museum. Beginning in summer 2017 through her final semester at Oberlin, Laube worked as curatorial assistant for modern and contemporary art under Ellen Johnson ’33 Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Andrea Gyorody.
“I really recommend to any students who are even remotely interested in art, art history, or even things like library sciences and handling rare and special objects to try to get involved with what the Allen does. I don’t know how many chances you ever get to be, as a student, so involved, and to feel like you’re actually contributing productively to an exhibition or a body of research," says Laube.
Her enthusiasm for the AMAM is indisputable; she held a position at the Clarence Ward Art Library for more than two and a half years, which overlapped for a brief period with her curatorial assistant duties under Gyorody, amid maintaining her academic responsibilities.
“Both of those experiences just really synchronized so well together because the more you learn about the collection, the more you can help people as a library assistant. My research skills became sharper, and I could bring that skillset to my museum position.”
Although Laube has seamlessly moved from one AMAM position to the next, she is now adjusting to life on the other side of being a student in her first staff position. Since beginning in July 2018, Laube says she has had a fair amount of leeway to explore the museum’s collection.
“The days currently entail considerable creative liberty and control, with which I’ve been entrusted, especially because the biggest project right now is to figure out which artworks will be relevant to our class visits,” she says.
“I think that there’s a broader range of careers that can benefit from a candidate who’s had this type of experience than we often imagine. In the past, I thought there were only two options for a career path: curator, or professor.” Long-term, Laube hopes to pursue a career in a position similar to arts editing or something more technical or writing-based, but still arts-centric. “It’s incredibly hard to find this kind of work without a master’s degree, especially at an institution that competes with the truly stupendous and encyclopedic collection that the Allen has.”